A road-widening project on the northern Las Vegas Beltway that has become mired in a legal morass could be mothballed.
Several Clark County commissioners expressed impatience Tuesday with the continuing feud between bidders to widen the Beltway between Decatur Boulevard and Tenaya Way. They suggested spending the $140 million earmarked for the project on other road improvements.
The Beltway project has stalled for six months while rival contractors Fisher Sand and Gravel and Las Vegas Paving played legal tug-of-war, pulling two county commissioners into the middle of a court battle.
Noting that the tussle could drag on for months, commission Chairman Rory Reid asked whether the county could divert the funds to other projects and create jobs in the ailing economy.
"Maybe we shouldn't do that project," Reid said. "Maybe we should do something different and get people back to work."
County Counsel Mary-Anne Miller said the money could be spent on other transportation projects as long as the Beltway contract hasn't been finalized.
Commissioners Chris Giun-chigliani and Susan Brager agreed that the $140 million should be used elsewhere rather than being frozen during a lengthy squabble.
The county is in dire need of projects to upgrade roads and create jobs, Brager said.
The project would widen a northern stretch of the Beltway, add interchanges at Jones and Decatur boulevards, and build an overpass at Bradley Road. Stoplights could be eliminated at all three intersections, allowing traffic to flow more freely.
That section of Beltway gets about a fifth of the traffic as the southern portion, so the county could put off widening it without causing a hazard, said Denis Cederburg, the county's public works director.
He said his staff will compile a list of options for how the county might divert the money from that project.
One of the Beltway areas most in need of widening runs from the McCarran International Airport connector to Warm Springs Road, he said. The estimated cost of the upgrade also is $140 million.
Still, all county taxpayers contribute to the Beltway fund, so it's only fair that some money is spent in the lesser-traveled north valley, Cederburg said.
Commissioners talked of shelving the project one day after a federal judge ordered them to hold off on revisiting the Beltway dispute for at least two weeks.
The same judge, Robert Jones, signed a writ last month that stated Commissioners Tom Collins and Steve Sisolak agreed not to vote on the bids. Fisher, a nonunion contractor, had accused the two commissioners of pro-union bias.
Collins, however, contends he never agreed to step aside. He sued the county and the two contractors, claiming the attorneys struck a deal without consulting with him, a deal that denies him the right to vote in behalf of his constituents. The judge will begin hearing arguments on Nov. 2 to determine whether Collins' case has merit.
On Tuesday, Collins said he appreciated the direction his colleagues were going.
"We'd rather be paying for asphalt than lawyers," Collins said.
The project has bounced between the commission and the courts since April.
Commissioners awarded the contract twice to Las Vegas Paving, even though its $116.8 million bid was higher than Fisher's $112.2 million bid.
They approved Las Vegas Paving the first time after the company argued that some of Fisher's subcontractors lacked proper licensing. A Clark County District Court judge overturned that decision, saying Las Vegas Paving missed the deadline for challenging Fisher's bid.
Commissioners chose Las Vegas Paving the second time after Sisolak questioned Fisher about a list of violations it had incurred in several states.
Fisher accused Sisolak and Collins of favoring a union contractor. Company officials also said they were denied due process when Sisolak grilled them without giving them ample time to respond.
The judge found no bias. But he approved an order that barred the two commissioners from participating in consideration of the project and required the county to supply all questions to Fisher beforehand.
Commissioner Larry Brown said he wants road projects to materialize, but he also wants to ensure the county doesn't dig itself into a deeper legal hole by killing a project at the center of a court feud.
"I want the comfort level ... that we're not just going to come full circle and get further litigation on the litigation," Brown said.
Contact reporter Scott Wyland at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-455-4519.